Scientist Targets 2024 for China's First Moon Walk

An artist's illustration of Chinese astronauts spacewalking outside their Shenzhou spacecraft. Future Shenzhou missions will feature spacewalks ahead of orbital rendezvous and docking demonstrations.
An artist's illustration of Chinese astronauts spacewalking outside their Shenzhou spacecraft. Future Shenzhou missions will feature spacewalks ahead of orbital rendezvous and docking demonstrations.
(Image: © China National Space Administration)

SHANGHAI, China (AP) - Chinaplans a manned lunar mission by 2024 that will include a walk on the moon'ssurface, a top Chinese scientist was quoted as saying in a Hong Kong newspaper.

The program went intooverdrive following China's first successful mannedspace mission in 2003 and may include a spacewalk byan additional mannedmission next year.

Named "Chang'e'' after amythical Chinese moon-inhabiting fairy, the lunar program will begin with thelaunch next spring of a 2-ton moon orbiting satellite,the program's chief scientist Ouyang Ziyuan was quoted as saying in the officialShanghai Daily newspaper.

The orbiter is due to stayin space at least a year and record images of the lunar surface, study lunarmicrowaves, the distribution of usable metals, and the thickness of lunar soil.

Long, who is Ouyang'sdeputy, was quoted by Hong Kong's Beijing-backed Wen Wei Po on Monday as sayingthe moon walk will be preceded by the landing of a robot explorer on the moon'ssurface in 2017 that will return with a chunk of the lunar surface on board.

The program envisions landing a vehicleby 2020 on the moon that would collect soil samples and conduct othertests, possibly in preparation for a manned lunar base.

Ouyang said scientistsworking on the lunar flights have overcome four major design hazards mainlyrelated to flight control and communications, according to the ShanghaiDaily.

The United States hopes to return astronautsto the moon by 2018, nearly a half-century after men last walked the lunarsurface.

President Bush has calledfor the retirementof the space shuttles by 2010 and the creation of a crew exploration vehiclefor ferrying astronauts to the international space station and ultimately tothe moon and Mars.

The crew explorationvehicle's first manned trip will be to low-Earth orbit, probably no earlierthan 2012, according to NASA plans.

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